KFOX-TV, virtual channel 14 (UHF digital channel 15), is a Fox-affiliated television station located in El Paso, Texas, United States. The station is owned by the Sinclair Broadcast Group, as part of a duopoly with CBS affiliate KDBC-TV (channel 4). KFOX-TV maintains studio facilities located on North Mesa Street (near the Coronado Tower) in northwest El Paso, and its transmitter is located atop the Franklin Mountains on the El Paso city limits. On cable, the station is available on Time Warner Cable channel 8.
The station first signed on the air in August 1979 as KCIK-TV (standing for "Christ Is King"); originally operating as a nonprofit Christian-oriented religious independent station, it was the first UHF television station to sign on in the El Paso market. The station was founded by International Christian Television (owned by the late Pete E. Meryl Warren III, who subsequently started KJLF-TV (channel 65, now UniMás affiliate KTFN) in June 1991). Warren and Alex Blomerth had been involved in a church outreach using a leased access channel on cable channel 8. The two partnered to sign on channel 14, broadcasting from the transmitter facilities and studios (located an old church building at 3100 North Stanton Street) that were used by the cable channel.
The station signed on from an existing tower on a peak of the Franklin Mountains, located north of Comanche Peak (where KDBC-TV (channel 4)'s transmitter is based) and Ranger Peak (where KTSM-TV (channel 9)'s transmitter is house) that had been built in the early 1970s for a planned expansion of KELP-TV (channel 13, now KVIA-TV on channel 7) but had never been used. The site was located at the highest elevation in Texas at 6,880 feet (2,100 m) above sea level; a tramway had to be installed as there was no access to the transmitter by roadway. KELP-TV and the yet-unlaunched KCOS (channel 7, now on channel 13), as were some FM radio stations, were to use the new site. While no television stations used the site until KCIK signed on, the local two-way radio operation began to use the site for radio repeaters. KCIK-TV moved to the site in 1979 using a transmitter than had been used by television station on channel 30 in Puerto Rico. The station initially broadcast its signal using a low-power transmitter, before it was upgraded to full-power later that year.
The station was sold to the Cristo Rey Corporation in 1982; channel 14 was then converted into El Paso's first general entertainment commercial independent station, while still carrying some religious programming. On October 6, 1986, the station became a charter affiliate of the Fox Broadcasting Company. But since Fox would not commence a full week's worth of programming until 1993, like other Fox affiliates at the time, KCIK was still a de facto independent station.
In 1988, KCIK was purchased by New York entrepreneur Jack Mulderrig Sr., who invested in the construction of a new studio facility at 6004 North Mesa Street in the northwestern part of the city which opened in June 1994. On January 3rd, six months before the opening of the new studios, the station changed its call letters to KFOX-TV; the use of the callsign differs from other stations that incorporate the network name into their call letters – ABC, NBC and CBS each have owned-and-operated stations in New York City and Los Angeles that bear their associated network within their calls; however the KFOX calls were not used by Fox for its O&O in Los Angeles (which retained the KTTV calls it had prior to former parent Metromedia's 1986 purchase by the network's original parent company News Corporation; a similar situation later arose with WFOX-TV in Jacksonville, Florida in 2014, when it took on those call letters as they were not already used by Fox's New York City O&O, which uses the WNYW callsign).
In August 1996, Cox Broadcasting acquired KFOX-TV, and turned it into a major player in the El Paso television market by upgrading its syndicated programming inventory and developing a news department. On July 20, 2012, one day after Cox purchased four television stations in Jacksonville, Florida and Tulsa, Oklahoma from Newport Television, Cox put KFOX-TV and sister stations in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, Steubenville, Ohio and Reno, Nevada (all in markets that are smaller than Tulsa), along with several of its radio stations in medium to small markets, on up for sale.
On February 25, 2013, Cox announced that it would sell the four television stations to the Sinclair Broadcast Group. The sale was approved by the FCC on April 29, and it was finalized on May 2. That April, Titan TV Broadcast Group filed to sell CBS affiliate KDBC-TV to one of Sinclair's partner companies, Cunningham Broadcasting. However, nearly all of Cunningham Broadcasting's stock is controlled by trusts in the names of family members of Sinclair founder Julian Sinclair Smith, which would result in Sinclair effectively running a virtual duopoly in the El Paso market that circumvented FCC ownership rules. FCC duopoly regulations normally disallow two of the four highest-rated stations (which usually constitute stations affiliated with the "Big Four" networks) from being directly owned by a single entity. However, Sinclair cited that KDBC is ranked fourth overall in the El Paso market while KFOX placed sixth in total-day viewership. In addition, FCC regulations require a market to be left with eight unique owners after a duopoly is formed, and Sinclair noted in its application that the El Paso–Las Cruces market would still have eight unique owners (not counting Mexican stations that also serve the market) after Sinclair completed its acquisition of KDBC. The FCC approved the sale of KDBC directly to Sinclair on September 23, and the transaction was formally completed on October 1, creating a duopoly with KDBC-TV. Sinclair later announced plans to purchase a new studio facility to house the two stations; both KDBC and KFOX will remain at their exiting separate facilities until construction on the new facility is completed.
The station's digital channel is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|14.1||720p||16:9||KFOX||Main KFOX-TV programming / Fox|
The station was originally schedule to begin carrying the Retro Television Network on a new second digital subchannel in late 2008; the launch was delayed for unknown reasons, with KFOX not launching the RTN subchannel until January 15, 2009.
In the early 2000s, KFOX-TV became the first station in the El Paso market to transmit a digital television signal. On May 21, 2009, the station performed two-minute tests of its digital signal, temporarily shutting down its analog feed at 6:25 a.m., 12:25 and 6:25 p.m. that day to prepare viewers for the pending digital television transition the following month by make sure they had necessary equipment to be able to continue receiving the station post-transition.
KFOX-TV shut down its analog signal, over UHF channel 14, at midnight on June 12, 2009, the official date in which full-power television stations in the United States transitioned from analog to digital broadcasts under federal mandate. The station's digital signal remained on its pre-transition UHF channel 15. Through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers display the station's virtual channel as its former UHF analog channel 14.
As part of the SAFER Act, KFOX kept its analog signal on the air until March 19 to inform viewers of the digital television transition through a loop of public service announcements from the National Association of Broadcasters.
Syndicated programs broadcast by KFOX-TV include Family Feud, Judge Mathis, The People's Court, The Big Bang Theory, Hot in Cleveland, and Modern Family among others. KFOX-TV clears the entire Fox network schedule; atypical for a "Big Four" affiliate, the station carries children's programming that meets FCC educational programming guidelines on weekday afternoons at 12:30 p.m. (the remaining allocated hour airs on Saturday mornings). In addition, unlike most Fox affiliates, its weekday daytime schedule relies largely on syndicated sitcoms with only a limited number of talk and court shows, as opposed to the daytime lineups of most Fox stations that are dominated by programs from the latter two genres.
KFOX-TV presently broadcasts 26½ hours of locally produced newscasts each week (with five hours on weekdays, a half-hour on Saturdays and one hour on Sundays). The station is unusual among Fox stations as it has no sports department; Fox owned-and-operated station WOFL in Orlando, Florida, Meredith Corporation-owned WHNS in Greenville, South Carolina and Journal Broadcast Group-owned WFTX-TV in Cape Coral, Florida are the only other Fox stations in the country whose news operation does not include a sports department. The station maintains a news bureau located on East Idaho Avenue in Las Cruces, New Mexico.
Under Cox Broadcasting ownership, the station invested in the launch of a news department. In September 1997, KFOX launched the first primetime newscast in the El Paso market, with the debut of a half-hour 9:00 p.m. newscast. The program grew in popularity to become the most-watched local newscast in the market within four years of its premiere. Since then, KFOX's news department has received nearly 300 local, regional and national awards for journalistic excellence including Emmy Awards, Edward R. Murrow Awards and Katie Awards. Even after the weeknight broadcast expanded to one hour by 2000, atypical for most Fox stations that produce their newscasts in-house, the Saturday edition of KFOX's 9:00 p.m. newscast remained a half-hour in length; it is one of a handful of news-producing Fox affiliates (and one of the largest by market size) to air its primetime newscast in such a fashion.
In January 2004, the station expanded its news programming with the debuted of a three-hour morning newscast, the KFOX Morning News, running from 5:00 to 8:00 a.m. Additionally, on October 8, 2008, KFOX launched a half-hour 6:00 p.m. newscast; the program would win two Regional Emmy Awards for "Best Newscast." The program was moved to 5:00 p.m. and expanded to one hour on January 2, 2012.